Release Date: October 20, 2018
Received From: Review copy from the author
Detective Damian Arruda thought his partner was just too distraught to accept his wife’s murder as a random act of violence. Then the devastated widower got too close to the truth, and now Damian is grieving his best friend. As his conscience threatens to eat him alive, he’ll stop at nothing to find the killer.
Special Agent Melissa Walker’s partner met a violent end as well, and his death is almost certainly connected. When she joins forces with Damian, the investigation takes them into the vile underbelly of the Internet: the incel community and its toxic forums full of misogynists who consider themselves “involuntarily celibate” and feed off each other’s vitriol and hatred.
As the pieces come together, there’s no denying the three deaths and the poisonous, cultlike community are part of a wave of murders, grisly assaults, and bombings. Damian and Melissa are running out of time to take the killers down before more innocent people fall victim—and before someone decides that one victim at a time isn’t enough.
SEXUALITY: bisexual, heterosexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: biromantic, heteroromantic
TROPES: workplace romance
TAGS: adult, contemporary, suspense, romantic suspense, romance, queer romance, queer characters, law enforcement, Portuguese character, immigrant character
WARNINGS: suicide, suicidal ideation, misogyny, explicit violence, slurs, gendered slurs, ableism, Nazi mention, rape mention, slavery mention, terrorism, cheating mention, stalking, acid attacks, slutshaming, binary language, anti-ace language, anti-gay language, anti-queerness, anti-fat language, racism, cissexism/anti-trans language, pedophilia mention, hospitalization, mental illness (panic attack), bombings, Holocaust mention, vomiting, anti-ace language (challenged on page), physical injury
It was obvious from both the title and the blurb that this book was going to be a struggle to get through. Not because the writing would be bad or the characters would suck or that it would be boring, but because of the content matter. And it really was stressful and exhausting and distressing to read. The vitriol that incels spew is so violently hateful and hurtful that there was no doubt I would need breaks. There were multiple times that I had to step away and stop reading for a while, and I tried to read it in smaller doses, which is why it took me over a week to read it. Because it’s A LOT and it’s difficult to handle.
But outside of that, this book is really good.
The characters are great, and it’s easy to connect with the main characters. Both Damian and Melissa are fresh off the pain of losing their partners, and their determination and deep need to solve this case can be felt in their every word and action. They’re both strong characters, loyal characters, and they’re also unafraid to appear vulnerable and open themselves up to the other. The partnership and friendship that develops between them is built on grief, but also develops into something beautiful outside of that, and eventually adds a romantic component that is both tender and hot as hell.
Plotwise, it was both predictable in a sense while still being a rollercoaster ride. I was able to predict a few of the plot twists from early on, but I’m honestly not sure if that’s just because I am familiar with Witt’s writing style from reading many of her books under her various pennames, or if they were just obvious (intentionally or otherwise). But at the same time, there were multiple moments where I gasped or leaned closer to my screen, only to jolt back, when something unexpected happens. With this novel, Witt does a great job of luring you in with a twist you’re expecting to some degree and then turning around to slam you with something totally unexpected.
In any case, I really did enjoy this novel, even if it was very draining and I feel the need to drown myself in fluffy romances now. I am in awe of Witt for being able to stomach being in the incel forums for months on end in order to do research. And I look forward to more from this series!
Lori A. Witt is the fourth corner of the Gallagher-Witt quad, and prefers to play in the genres of science fiction and fantasy over all that romance nonsense. Okay, so romance does show up sometimes, but these are the books she writes when she needs a change of pace. Sword and sorcery, spaceships, and just general weird nerdy goodness—Lori writes it all. In her spare time, she tries to stay out of the middle of L.A.’s and Lauren’s ongoing rivalry, while never missing a chance to trip Ann when she’s not paying attention.